21 May 2017

Homily - 20 May 2017 - The Wedding of Ashley Almuena and Bryan Domingo

The Wedding of Ashley Almuena and Bryan Domingo

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We have come together this morning into this church dedicated to the honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to witness the exchange of consent between Bryan and Ashley. We have come together to celebrate with them as today they “establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life,” which, by its very nature, “is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children.” They will begin this partnership in this church because marriage has “been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” (canon 1055). This is why the ancient Christian, Tertullian, asked:

How can I ever express the happiness of the marriage that is joined together by the Church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels and ratified by the Father? ...How wonderful the bond between two believers with a single hope, a single desire, a single observance, a single service! They are both brethren and both fellow-servants; there is no separation between them in spirit or flesh; in fact they are truly two in one flesh and where the flesh is one, one is the spirit.[1]

All of this will be brought about today by the Lord’s grace and favor.

On behalf of Bryan and Ashley, I greet you, their ohana (family) and friends, with much aloha and I welcome you in the name of Christ. I thank you for the love, support, and encouragement which you give them by your presence today and which you have shared with them in the previous days, weeks, and years. I am confident they will be able to count on you in the days, weeks, and years ahead for this same encouragement, support, and love. Now, my friends, before we witness the exchange of their promises to live the remainder of their lives together in committed love, I ask you to allow me to speak directly to the couple; you, of course, are welcome to listen in.

Saint Marianne Cope
Bryan and Ashley, among the words of profound spiritual counsel Saint Marianne Cope has left us, we find some words that you, no doubt, know well: “Creep down into the heart of Jesus.” The reason she tells us to do so is simple: “He alone can comfort you in your supreme hour of sorrow.” These might seem strange words with which to begin a homily for a wedding, but the truth of her words cannot be ignored, nor can the reality of marriage as a cross, in that marriage requires a daily renunciation of oneself in favor of the spouse.

We know that “love is the foundation of everything,” including marriage and the Cross, but just as there is a temptation today to over-romanticize love, so is there a temptation to over-romanticize marriage, to think it will automatically bring about a life of bliss without any difficulties whatever.[2] The reality, however, as any honest couple will tell you, is not quite so picture perfect. Marriage is difficult and requires compromise, patience, and gentleness, but when the difficulties of marriage are embraced, marriage is beautiful. Just as the Cross is difficult, so, too, can marriage be difficult; but in the same, just as the Cross produces joy within those who embrace it, so, too, does marriage (cf. John 15:11-13).

Like the Christian life in general, marriage is simple, but it is not easy; marriage is simple because, at its core, it involves only one thing, namely, the acceptance of the Cross in imitation of Christ Jesus who “first loved us” (I John 4:10). In marriage, you, Bryan, must always put Ashley’s good before your own; likewise, you, Ashley, must always put Bryan’s good before your own. If you live in this way, you will indeed “be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ” and your married love will shine like a great light upon all who see you (Ephesians 5:21). All of this, of course, requires a repeated and continual embracing of the Cross.

John Ronald Reuel and Edith Tolkien
The great J.R.R. Tolkien, a devout Catholic and author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, reflected on the reality of marriage in a letter he wrote to his son Michael in 1941. Then, after twenty-five of his fifty-five years of marriage to his beloved wife Edith, the elder Tolkien wrote these words:

Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification… No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial. Too few are told that – even those brought up ‘in the Church’.[3]

Tolkien here speaks of a danger for the groom in marriage, but lest some think marriage brings no danger for the bride, we might note also the temptation of the wife always to be right. Marriage, for her, too, requires deliberate conscious exercise of the will, that is, self-denial. I do not want the two of you to be unaware of this; this is why I began with Mother Marianne’s counsel to creep down into the heart of Jesus, for his Sacred Heart is always intimately connected with his Cross. How fitting, then, even providential, that you begin your married life together in this church dedicated to that Heart that was pierced in love for us and remains open for us as a safe harbor in the storms of life and a happy hale (home) in the joys of life.

As you help each other creep down further into the heart of Jesus to conform your hearts ever more closely to his own, you will help each other to become saints, which is, of course, the first and primary purpose of marriage. You will help each other to shine like lampstands in a world that too often seems filled with much darkness. We know that “when we as Christians fail to be saints, when we fail to live the beatitudes and be light, the world suffers.”[4] Strive, then, to “let those you illumine by the light of your words be seasoned by the salt of your good works.”[5] If you help each other to live in this way, you will be true a husband and a true wife.

Saint Joseph Damien de Veuster
As you help each other to daily creep into the heart of Jesus, do not forget these words of Father Damien: “To have begun is nothing, the hard thing is to persevere. This is the work of God’s grace. That grace will never fail me, I am sure of that, provided I do not resist it.” Help each other to persevere in love and the grace of God will never fail you. What is more, your lives joined together as one will be like that great multitude in heaven continually crying out, “Alleluia! Salvation, glory, and might belong to our God” (Revelation 19:1). It will be as if you say to each person you meet, “Praise our God, all you his servants, and you who revere him, small and great” for you “have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:5, 9).

If you recognize that you, too, have been called to that same heavenly feast and are called to reflect him who is “the Light of the world,” you will indeed be light and you will be salt (John 8:12; cf. Matthew 5:13-14). From this day forward, may you, as husband and wife, together season the world with acts of mercy and shine the light of love upon those who do not know the beauty of the Sacred Heart. May you - and everyone who sees you - “live in love” (Ephesians 5:2). Amen.

[1] Tertullian, Ad uxorem, II.VIII.6-8. In Pope Saint John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, 13.
[2] Saint John Chrysostom, Homily on Ephesians 17.4.32-5.2. In Thomas C. Oden, et al, eds., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament Vol. VIII: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1999), 173.
[3] J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter to Michael Tolkien, 6-8 March 1941. In The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Humphrey Carpenter, ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000), 51.
[4] Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, Catholic Commentary on Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2010), 92.
[5] Anonymous, Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 10. In Thomas C. Oden, et al, eds., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament Vol. Ia: Matthew 1-13 (Downers Grover, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2001), 95.

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